GE crops adjudged safe

The nation’s leading scientific panel says there is a scientific consensus that genetically engineered (GE) crops are as safe as other crops.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report saying, in traditionally stilted scientific language, that “the committee could not find persuasive evidence of adverse health effects directly attributable to consumption of GE foods” and that there is “no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems.”

The report also said that pest-resistant crops that poison insects through a soil bacterium reduces the need for farmers to use pesticides.

But the two-year study also said genetic food research is not yet leading to higher crop yields needed to deal with population growth. The development of genetically modified wheat—which produced higher yields in the 1960s—dealt with famine and food riots in India, and there is hope that further research in the field will accommodate today’s terrific planetary growth.

The report was no surprise to scientists, but it acknowledged the folklore that challenges the science: “Policy regarding [GE] crops has scientific, legal and social dimensions. For example, on the basis of its review of the evidence on health effects, the committee does not believe that mandatory labeling of foods with GE content is justified to protect public health, but it noted that the issue involves social and economic choices that go beyond technical assessments of health or environmental safety; ultimately, it involves value choices that technical assessments alone cannot answer.”

It called for “transparency and public participation in the oversight” of crops by regulators to deal with the folklore.